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Old 08-07-2012, 03:54 PM   #1
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Testing electric element for water heater

Does anyone know how I can test the electric heating element in my water heater? Had a problem a few days ago where the heater didn't work on electric and wanted to rule out the heating element.
Thanks.
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Old 08-07-2012, 04:44 PM   #2
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Does anyone know how I can test the electric heating element in my water heater? Had a problem a few days ago where the heater didn't work on electric and wanted to rule out the heating element.
Thanks.
If you have 10 gallon suburban, the element is located just below the burner tubing. Its near center at the bottom, access from the outer cover. There should be a black plastic cover with ears screwed into the face plate. With power off remove cover, an establish power to the heater. Should read 120 AC across the two screwed wires.
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Old 08-07-2012, 04:56 PM   #3
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If you have 10 gallon suburban, the element is located just below the burner tubing. Its near center at the bottom, access from the outer cover. There should be a black plastic cover with ears screwed into the face plate. With power off remove cover, an establish power to the heater. Should read 120 AC across the two screwed wires.
Vince,
When I tried this as you described, all I get is a big spark and pop the circuit breaker.
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Old 08-07-2012, 05:07 PM   #4
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Vince,
When I tried this as you described, all I get is a big spark and pop the circuit breaker.
Voltmeter is set on 0-200Vots AC? if it is, try another meter. You're producing a short circuit thats why breaker opens.
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Old 08-07-2012, 06:20 PM   #5
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That is not correct.

You will only be measuring the potential across the terminals and not the continuity of the element.

Remove 120 VAC power from the water heater at the power center by opening the circuit breaker.

Select OHMS on your meter. and remove one wire from the element.

Put a test probe on each ear of the heating element.

The meter should show the calculated resistance across the terminals; if it shows "open" or infinite the element is burned out.

How to Test a Heating Element: 9 steps - wikiHow

Using this method for a suburban water heater element of 1000 watts @ 120 volts:

R = (V^2) / P [Where V is the voltage powering the element, P is the power the element uses and R is the resistance.

120Vx120V/1000 = 14 ohms.
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Old 08-07-2012, 06:38 PM   #6
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That is not correct.

You will only be measuring the potential across the terminals and not the continuity of the element.

Remove 120 VAC power from the water heater at the power center by opening the circuit breaker.

Select OHMS on your meter. and remove one wire from the element.

Put a test probe on each ear of the heating element.

The meter should show the calculated resistance across the terminals; if it shows "open" or infinite the element is burned out.

How to Test a Heating Element: 9 steps - wikiHow

Using this method for a suburban water heater element of 1000 watts @ 120 volts:

R = (V^2) / P [Where V is the voltage powering the element, P is the power the element uses and R is the resistance.

120Vx120V/1000 = 14 ohms.
Herk,
When I follow your procedure, I get a reading of 1 (the same as the meter indicates with the probes not touching together- it goes to zero when I touch the leads together). If I change the ears that are touched with the probes, I get a reading of -49.5. ie touch red to top ear and black to bottom- then I change and touch black to the top and red to the bottom. Don't know what to make of that.
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Old 08-07-2012, 06:50 PM   #7
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Meter on the wrong thing. If you are checking ohms, and have one terminal on the disconnected, no way will you get a negative reading on an ohmmeter. Power must still be on, and this should never happen when checking for ohms, (resistance). If the heater has water in it, check from each leg to a metal part of the heater, or the gas line. If you show any resistance, element is blown, and water is shorting it to ground.
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Old 08-07-2012, 07:06 PM   #8
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Herk,
When I follow your procedure, I get a reading of 1 (the same as the meter indicates with the probes not touching together- it goes to zero when I touch the leads together). If I change the ears that are touched with the probes, I get a reading of -49.5. ie touch red to top ear and black to bottom- then I change and touch black to the top and red to the bottom. Don't know what to make of that.
I get the first part. A 1 set in continuity means "open" or infinite resistance.
Zero means dead short (probes touching each other. Continuity is normally used to test diodes.

Try "OHMS" with a 1K or 100 Ohm range.

That you are getting a negative number reversing the ears is a bit unusual. I don't know what to make of that either. Perhaps you are getting a continuity reading through the burst heating element to the ear.

Here is what a burned out element could look like and how a test of a "good" fridge heating element should look like.
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Old 08-07-2012, 07:13 PM   #9
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Meter on the wrong thing. If you are checking ohms, and have one terminal on the disconnected, no way will you get a negative reading on an ohmmeter. Power must still be on, and this should never happen when checking for ohms, (resistance). If the heater has water in it, check from each leg to a metal part of the heater, or the gas line. If you show any resistance, element is blown, and water is shorting it to ground.
Windrider-
OK- let me recap what I just did.

Breaker off.
1 Electric wire off heater
reading on meter 1
Red probe on disconnected terminal Black probe on metal part of heater reading 0
Red probe on terminal with wire black probe on metal part of heater reading is 1
Black probe on terminal with wire red on metal part of heater meter reading -49.5
Black probe on disconnected terminal red on metal part of heater meter reading 0
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Old 08-07-2012, 07:20 PM   #10
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Maybe fuse is out on meter from 1st test. Herk you will get 120 VAC across element if it is open, very simple test.
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